By David Benda, Record Searchlight, February 2016
The skies above Redding will get a bit more busier come April.
PenAir will start service from Redding to Portland, Oregon, on April 21, the airline announced Friday afternoon.
The news culminates nearly a year of talks between Redding officials and the Alaska-based regional airline. It marks the first time service to the Pacific Northwest will be offered here since Horizon Air stopped flying to Seattle in 2010.
“We looked at the market and we looked at some statistics and we do believe” Redding can support flights to Portland, PenAir spokeswoman Melissa Roberts said. “We are excited.”
Former Redding Airports Director Rod Dinger took the lead in the city’s recruitment of PenAir. Dinger retired in December but has stayed on a limited basis to help Redding expand service at the airport.
“It’s been really close to my heart, trying to enhance air service here at Redding,” Dinger said. “It’s been a top priority for me. So this announcement, I am just real excited with it.”
Also in April, SkyWest will add a third flight to San Francisco out of Redding. The service starts April 5. Right now, SkyWest, doing business as United Express, offers two daily flights to SFO on 50-seat regional jets.
PenAir will fly a 34-seat, twin-engine Saab 340 turbo prop out of Redding.
The first flight will depart at 4:50 a.m. and make a stop in Arcata-Eureka before arriving in Portland at 7:20 a.m.
“So you will have plenty of time to make a lot of good connections,” Roberts said.
The afternoon flight will leave Redding at 3:40 and fly nonstop, arriving in Portland at 5:15. Flights from Portland would arrive in Redding at 3:10 p.m. and 9 p.m. The late flight will stop in Arcata-Eureka before continuing on to Redding.
On March 1, the Redding City Council is expected to vote on a $75,000 incentive package for PenAir that would include waiving landing fees and facility rental fees for a year. The city also would manage a marketing program to help PenAir sell the service.
PenAir also announced on Friday it will start Portland service from North Bend-Coos Bay, Oregon, on March 21.
The carrier in September started Portland service from Crescent City through a U.S. Department of Transportation Essential Service contract.
PenAir’s next target for service to Portland was Klamath Falls, Oregon. But the Transportation Security Administration has told Klamath Falls it will not re-establish a passenger-screening base there.
So PenAir turned to Redding and the other communities.
“It is all out of our hands, out of our control at this point,” Roberts said of PenAir’s efforts to serve Klamath Falls. “We are still hoping and we have not quite put it aside, but saying that, we are moving forward.”
Meanwhile, passenger traffic at Redding Municipal Airport was up about 30 percent in 2015 compared with 2014, Airports Manager Bryant Garrett said.
Garrett, too, was elated with PenAir’s announcement.
“I don’t think words can describe how happy I am,” he said.
The Great Recession took its toll on the Redding airport. But Garrett believes this is another sign that the economy is improving.
“You don’t recognize what you had until you lost it,” Garrett said. “We feel very confident the community will support this (Portland service) and not to the detriment of our current service.”